Mary Archer is a senior majoring in English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Until she was in her teens, she lived on Staten Island—the retirement island of sailors and firefighters; the little sister of Manhattan—where her grandfather had his auto-repair shop. She moved in her first month of high school to the land of lava rock. She then took flight from the Big Island to clear-sky O‘ahu and began her college years at Kapi‘olani Community College. She loves learning from her teachers and hopes to teach one day.
Excerpts from “Drafts of Robert McHenry”
Just Passing By
Free to any walking
With a mind to poesy
A great stack of books making
One man’s legacy
His rhymed verse repeated
Defiant of fire and ruinous time
Your mind defined by purple ink on page
Asterisk, checkmark and underline
Some volumes caught my eye. They were titles I had borrowed from libraries last year. The rest I had bought for dimes. I meant to read them. Now I had a second chance. I picked up Richard III from the shelf. I thought it might have been Professor Robert McHenry’s copy. I was excited to see his notes. Sure enough, it was his.
I had wanted to take his class on Shakespeare my first semester. The class was over-enrolled. A student gave me his seat and sat on the floor. I let a senior get her place and enroll. I took another class. One day, my professor said McHenry was sick and he had to substitute for him. I forgot about McHenry. I received an email notice saying a professor had retired. I forgot about it.
So when the four shelves of free books caught my eye, I was wonderstruck. Good books I would be proud to have. I didn’t have the heart to separate a Shakespeare book from its brothers. I carried away a binder and two books on teaching English. I met a faculty member in the elevator and asked him why there were so many books—precious ones, some kept for fifty years—set out for free. He told me McHenry had died.
It took some time for me to feel alright. I wanted to remember Professor McHenry as he should be remembered, as a teacher whose influence could not disappear even with the disappearance of books from the shelf. I knew him and loved him for one day.